Who needs roses?

The resident macropods have killed all my roses bushes by their perseverance in eating every shoot or bud that dares to peek through the sad grey wood of the remnants.

But they do not eat bulb leaves or flowers. I don’t know why, but I am very, very grateful, because each winter I am treated to displays like these.

The Erlicheer jonquils (above) come first, forming a perfumed bank below my now bare verandah vines. Their dense clusters are a little like roses;  I love the deep buttery depths of their cream petals.

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The tall white jonquils of a simpler, more open design are less strongly scented, while the orange-hearted yellow ones are mainly there for colour and cheeriness — and because they keep coming back each year.

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My childhood favourite was always the clumps of snowflakes, dainty white bells whose picot edges are decorated with just the right amount of green.

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Before their flowering gives a lighter touch, there’s a different charm in the strong blades of the leaves as they jostle for space around the birch tree. I ought to be separating these clumps; people say they will flower more if I do, but when a clump like this comes out it is as bountiful as I can imagine.

Spring hit

Having been away from the mountain for a few weeks with the latest book tour means that I was prepared for the worst, like bush fires, or trees blown down and across the track, when I returned.

I wasn’t prepared for the best, which is what I found.

The winter jonquils were finished, but Spring had hit with full force in that time.

The white wisteria on the verandah was making up for all those years it didn’t flower. Its graceful showers of blossoms gladden my aesthetic heart whenever I see them from my desk and its faint perfume greets me as I open the door of a morning.

Its more common cousin, the lilac wisteria, looks like it’s been out a little longer, as some flowers are tinged with brown. Nevertheless it greatly adorns the power shed/laundry building, albeit only on a band above wallaby height.

For I seem to be developing a garden of standards, where plants like this enormous banksia rose (left) are thoroughly pruned of leaves and flowers to the pruners’ heights. Even its arching stems are pulled down to be ‘tidied up’ and kept bare and brown.

The jasmine climbing on an old fence post actually looks quite cute as a topknot!

I’m enjoying these flowerings while they last, as they are always too brief. And as I still have no time for gardening, with more book talks coming up, I’m grateful they manage this spectacular Spring Show on their own.

Sandstone Spring

The walk at Lees’ Pinch Lookout in the Goulburn River National Park is only an 800m round trip. At this time of year there were more native flowers blooming than I’d see in most gardens.

Fantastic rocks and sinuous young, whitely unscribbled-on Scribbly Gums formed the settings.

Yellow predominated, but apart from the simple open faces of a Hibbertia, I didn’t know these sandstone country flowers — the pea family! My forest country has little or no shrub layer, so this richness was a treat.

Backlit beauties

It’s still as cold as winter of a morning, but the irises are heading skywards for summer.

The most proudly regal flower I know, their fistfuls of blue-green broadspears of leaves were lately joined by tall spikes of tightly furled buds, and now the topmost of these are opening.

They droop their lower lips and bare their bearded tongues, but coyly hold up veils to hide their golden eyes. The texture of these beautifully veined petals is like silk — royal silk — and the dramatic colours make this bearded iris  my favourite.

The reason why I am permitted to have such beauties boldly growing in my yard is that none of the critters find irises tasty — neither the leaves nor the flowers. This has proved the case with all my bulbs.

So I am inclined to plant more iris varieties, like these delicate frilly lilacs, as there about 300 to choose from.

But I have a niggling feeling that if I do, some animal will suddenly decide they make a worthwhile feast. It’s happened before: “Get that woman complacent, off her guard — then go for it!”

I may have to remain dependent on the tougher types, like these yellow Flag irises that are multiplying happily in a soggy depression. Their blooms are smaller and less flamboyant than their dry-footed cousins, but more open.

Spring hits

My stone fruit trees agree with the snakes; they reckon it’s Spring. The apricot declared it first, prematurely, and lost most of the blossoms in a rainy spell.

Of them all, my favourite is the Santa Rosa plum’s simple white blossoms, their stamens topped with gold, and set in softest green. The bees like them too.

I still haven’t pruned this one so will have to share the plums with the King Parrots and the Bower Birds.

Pink is a colour of so many hues they ought to be distinctly named. The peaches and the nectarine are quite different blossoms, in progress, in composition and complexity, as well as ‘pinkness’.

Which is as it should be, given that their fruit is so different.

The cherries are yet to blossom; then will come the pome fruit: the apples and the nashis. Lucky bees and birds — and lastly, possibly lucky me!

Verandah birds

Must be spring; the swallows are back. Several are squeaking and doing aerobatics out there in the yard’s airspace, but two have claimed that of the verandah.

They’re doing low flying runs from one end to the other, looping out over the lattice gate or though the still un-vine-screened ‘windows.’

Over my computer I watch them alight on the fairy light strings — just briefly. They sway a bit, peep to each other  — and they’re off again. I haven’t found where they are nesting; the old one on the verandah rafter has not even been visited, or not so I’ve seen.

I think it might be nearby and that the aerial maneouvres are to shoo off the magpies as much as to show off.

Today, I also had ‘rosellas in the mist’. The rosies haven’t been visiting the verandah, probably busy raising those green-backed babies, and I don’t know how they twigged that today I’d put out some birdseed, after about a month of none. I don’t like them to count on it.

They were a welcome splash of colour.

Forest fires

Many early colonists thought the Australian bush a drab monotone of greyish green, blinded as they still were by the vivid lime greens and emeralds of their European trees and mist-made lawns.

I hope closer acquaintance taught them to see more clearly – if they hadn’t cleared all the bush around them.

At present my forest’s greens of a million hues are lit by fiery reds and hot pinks as new spring growth announces its presence.

These small ferns (left) prefer the shadier side of the mountain but are particularly beautiful when backlit, set alight by sunshine striking into a clearing. I stopped on the muddy track to capture the moment as their individual tongues of fire flamed amongst the grass.

The sunny side of the forest holds its fires high, blazing in bunches through the dense older growth and across the sky. We may not get autumn colour, but I challenge anyone to say that our eucalypts are drab or lacking seasonal variety. These gum tips are downright pretty!

Out-of-reach roses

This year I have only three varieties of rose in bloom  — all climbing varieties. The others were shrubs but are now mere snapped sticks and stripped stems, some with a topknot of leaves where the wallabies and roos can’t reach.

Last year they all bloomed but the climbing ones were eaten by the possum. Since the quoll seems to have eaten the possum, where these roses have climbed out of reach of the determinedly reaching macropods, they are giving me a fabulous display in this late Spring.

The Crepuscule rose on the verandah is bursting with buds and its ragged apricot blooms are buzzing with bees. This rose has been climbing for about 15 years and its stems are thick and woody and likely to lift the battens on the verandah roof eaves where it snakes around the side, but I can’t bring myself to tell it it stop.

These roses drop their petals fairly quickly when cut, but the other two varieties last well inside. Stuck inside working away on my book, I don’t get outside much now to enjoy them where they grow, so I bring them in.

I am delighted and awed by their beauty every time I look at them. This delicate old-fashioned shell-pink beauty is Madame Carrìère and she bedecks the rusty shed walls, but only above about two metres.

The densely cupped rich yellow flowers of the Graham Thomas rose on the ‘guest wing’ are right beneath where the possum was living, and its stems were constantly broken as it climbed. Now it arches freely and blooms in profusion; I love the sheer opulence of its fat full cups!

As I never know how long any particular balance will last among the creatures here, I shall enjoy these roses while I can, and hope the macropods don’t learnt to climb.

Stormy roos

October has been a variable month, veering from warm to cold to freezing, from spring buds and seedling growth to blossom profusion.

And then we had a wild storm or two, one close to gale force, with winds roaring like freight trains, smashing branches and trees down and shredding gumleaves like confetti on the ground.

In fact that Saturday afternoon it had felt like it might snow, and I’d said so to a visiting friend. There was a laugh and the comment ‘You’ve got about as much chance of winning the lottery as getting snow in October!’

As if on cue, only minutes later — through the kitchen window we saw, briefly, lightly, but unmistakably, the graceful swirling downwards dance of snow. There was another flurry later. My friend is buying a lottery ticket.

The other storm was not so cold or wild, but wet and loud, with thunder and tiny hail and rain like driven nails on the roof.

I watched from the verandah, bemused because the kangaroo family hadn’t sought denser shelter than my garden trees. Was it to do with the lightning?

They slightly changed the direction of their positions but did not move from their chosen trees. I’d have thought a birch tree would give little shelter.

And from where I stood, I couldn’t see one wallaby in the yard.

When the drama was over and the sun had retired, summer storm-style, life returned to normal grazing — except beneath bedraggled pelts of wet fur.

The wallabies must have been somewhere near, for the first one I spotted was this rather confused joey next to my house tank. Maybe they had been under the verandah? I hadn’t thought to look.

Spring surprises

The extremely slow-to-bloom (16 years!) white wisteria is now fully out and it is so beautiful in form and colour that it deserves a follow-up post. For some reason, its delicacy makes me think of Japan, where I’ve never been. Perhaps the decorations on geisha hair combs in paintings?

The weeping habit has given my verandah view such added beauty that I am quite awed. And just look at the all the reddish new leaves on the climbing and possum-less rose!

Thanks, quoll.

The other spring surprise has been that the bird-sown Pittosporum tree in my garden has also blossomed. There are two indigenous varieties here, one more sweetly scented than the other, I believe. So I have been wondering which this one would turn out to be.

Perhaps I still don’t know, not having the two to compare, but mine definitely has a sweet perfume. It will do me. What a treat!

The bees seemed to think so too.

Welcome wisteria

For sixteen years the wisteria on my verandah has done a great job as a living shade cloth — but it has never flowered. It was given to me in a pot, grown from a cutting of a white wisteria, so the giver assured me.  I didn’t mind that it didn’t flower, given how lovely were the shape and shade of the leaves.

I bought a normal mauve flowering wisteria and planted it by the laundry.

So when the first leaf bud opened this Spring I rushed to take a photo — and then was stopped short by the odd bump to the right. A bud, a flower bud!! After thinking about it for sixteen years.

In a few days there were more, and as they opened I could see that the flowers were not white, but pale lilac.  Very pretty, subtler than its more uniform mauve cousin. They both have a lick of yellow at their throats.

The other pea-shaped flower in those shades in the garden is the Roi de Carouby snow pea’s magenta and pink, now reaching above the netting and bearing many peas daily.

Sharing my spring

A few warm days, a fat black snake with a lunchtime bulge basking in the sun, and then five degree mornings again.

I know to keep an eye out now, but I have been watching the wallabies and roos accept the snake’s presence, and even close progress, and show no sign of anxiety.

I must learn to be still.

I saw the snake again today — and managed to keep on hanging out the washing.

Almost daily an echidna potters though the yard, weaving its waddling way between the groups of macropods that laze and graze — usually around 20, not counting joeys in pouches.

I enjoy their easy acceptance of each other, as I do when the wallabies let me pass very close and don’t move. No echidna is at ease with me yet.

Yesterday I saw the first satin bower bird pecking around the bay tree, darting in and out from its low growing shelter. She could have been a ceramic figurine, with her subtle colouring and well-defined bumps of breast feathers.

There will be many more, ready for what fruit the parrots leave. While the trees bear only blossom my feelings are simple: admiration.